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Issued on: 31/03/2022

After months of more or less suspense, 12 candidates have made it onto the official ballot for the April 10 first round of France's presidential election. Alas, the race ended before it truly began for dozens of others who fell short in their quest to secure the 500 signatures legally required to stand for France's top job.

Seven of the official candidates vying for the presidency in 2022, including incumbent Emmanuel Macron, were on the ballot in 2017. They span the political spectrum, with half representing extremes to the left and right of France's mainstream. A third are women vying to become the nation's first présidente.

After the second round decides it all on April 24, just one of these candidates will be the last man – or woman – standing, poised to begin a five-year term as France's head of state. FRANCE 24 takes a closer look at the options in the race for the Élysée Palace.

élection présidentielle 2022 France 24
Text: Tracy McNicoll, Romain Brunet, Aude Mazoué
Photos : Joël Saget (AFP)
Editor: Khatya Chhor, Assiya Hamza
Copy editor: Christine Buckley, William Prendiville
Editor in chief: Stéphane Bernstein
Graphics: Creative Department - France Médias Monde
Managing Editors: Amaury Guibert, Loïck Berrou
January 2022 © All rights reserved
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Nathalie Arthaud

Lutte ouvrière

After months of more or less suspense, 12 candidates have made it onto the official ballot for the April 10 first round of France's presidential election. Alas, the race ended before it truly began for dozens of others who fell short in their quest to secure the 500 signatures legally required to stand for France's top job.

Seven of the official candidates vying for the presidency in 2022, including incumbent Emmanuel Macron, were on the ballot in 2017. They span the political spectrum, with half representing extremes to the left and right of France's mainstream. A third are women vying to become the nation's first présidente.

After the second round decides it all on April 24, just one of these candidates will be the last man – or woman – standing, poised to begin a five-year term as France's head of state. FRANCE 24 takes a closer look at the options in the race for the Élysée Palace.

Website: https://www.nathalie-arthaud.info/

Click here for all our reports on Nathalie Arthaud

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Nicolas Dupont-Aignan

Debout la France

An erstwhile conservative who broke away from the mainstream to stake a claim on the sovereignist right wing, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan styles himself as an alternative to classical French conservatism. The grandson of a First World War aviator and the son of a Second World War mountain infantryman and wine broker, Dupont-Aignan was born in Paris and studied at Sciences Po and the École Nationale d'Administration (ENA), wholly conventional pathways for French public servants and political figures. Under the banner of the conservative RPR party (the political ancestor of today's Les Républicains), Dupont-Aignan was elected mayor of Yerres, a southeastern suburb of the capital, in 1995 and won a seat in the lower-house National Assembly in 1997.

In 2005, Dupont-Aignan distinguished himself from his party's braintrust by voting "No" in the referendum on the European Union constitution, which would ultimately lead him to break with the conservatives in 2008 to start his own outfit, initially known as Debout la République ("Stand up the Republic"). The party's name evolved to the current Debout la France ("Stand up France") in 2014.

Dupont-Aignan's 2022 bid for the presidency is his third after previous efforts in 2012 (in which he won 1.79 percent of the vote) and 2017 (4.7 percent). Five years ago, after falling short in the first round, he allied for the run-off with far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who had promised to appoint him prime minister if she won. Further along the spectrum to the right than Les Républicains candidate Pécresse, the 61-year-old father of two's 2022 bid risks being overshadowed by both Le Pen and newcomer Éric Zemmour, a right-wing pundit, as they monopolise the limelight at the rightward edge of French politics.

Website: https://2022nda.fr/

Click here for all our reports on Nicolas Dupont-Aignan

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Anne Hidalgo

Parti socialiste

Born near Cadiz to an electrician father and seamstress mother, Hidalgo was only 2 years oldwhen her family emigrated from Franco's Spain to a working-class district of Lyon. At 14 in 1973, she was naturalised as a French citizen with her family and officially Gallicised her given name, Ana, to Anne.

Hidalgo began her working life as a health and safety inspector before stints at the UN's International Labour Organization in Geneva and the French utilities conglomerate Compagnie générale des eaux, before shifting to government in 1997 as an advisor to cabinet ministers under freshly elected Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin. Elected to Paris city council in 2001, she soon became first deputy to Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanöe. After two terms as Delanöe's right-hand woman and largely in his shadow, Hidalgo succeeded him as mayor of the French capital in 2014. During her successful re-election campaign in 2020, a rare bright light amid the darkening fortunes of her Socialist Party, Hidalgo pledged not to turn her back on Paris for a presidential bid. But with the once-illustrious party short on credible options, she threw her hat in the ring anyway in September 2021, handily winning the Socialist primary the following month.

From there, Hidalgo's effort to revive the party's chances at reclaiming the Élysée Palace stagnated. In December, with myriad leftist factions jockeying for elusive traction in the 2022 race, the Socialist candidate called on her closest rivals to take part in a cross-party primary to build unity and momentum for a viable left-wing option. But the idea fell flat with Hidalgo's most significant foes, the Greens' Yannick Jadot and far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, while inadvertently spurring rival leftist Christiane Taubira to wage her own bid through the race via January's rogue People's Primary. Taubira ultimately fell short of the 500-signaturerequirement to join the official ballot, but not before drawing the lion's share of media attention for weeks and leaving Hidalgo's bid reeling. With France's left wing at risk of crashing out without a finalist candidate in the April 24 run-off, Hidalgo remains under pressure to back a better placed leftist rival. But the 62-year-old mother of three has insisted she will see the race through to its conclusion.

Website: https://www.2022avechidalgo.fr/

Click here for all our reports on Anne Hidalgo

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Yannick Jadot

Europe Écologie-Les Verts

Greens candidate Yannick Jadot was born to teacher parents in northern France, the youngest of four boys raised among the beetroot fields in the countryside near Laon, north of the French capital. Alongside his father, the young Jadot handed out flyers for the François Mitterrand-era Socialist Party. After earning an economics degree specialising in development, Jadot worked for a humanitarian non-profit in Asia and Africa with a focus on agriculture. He would later serve as director of campaigns for Greenpeace France. Working alongside colleagues for the environmental group, he insinuated himself into a French nuclear submarine base in Brittany on a Zodiac boat in protest in 2005. For his troubles, Jadot was later convicted of "violating the superior interests of the Nation".

He first joined France's Greens in 1999 and worked on the party's 2002 presidential campaign. But he shifted to politics in earnest in 2008, waging a successful bid for a seat in the European Parliament representing western France for Europe Écologie in 2009. He served as spokesperson for his party's 2012 presidential candidate, Eva Joly, before taking his first kick at the presidential can himself in 2017. But after winning his party's presidential primary that year, Jadot decided to bow out in favour of Socialist Party candidate Benoît Hamon, a bid that would ultimately fall embarrassingly short.

After winning his party's primary again in September, and buoyed by Green success not least in 2019 European Parliament elections, Jadot has this time brushed aside fresh calls for unity from fellow leftists, vowing instead to see his 2022 bid through to the finish line. The challenge for the 54-year-old father of two is to unite leftist voters as well as former supporters of centrist President Emmanuel Macron, disillusioned by an incumbent who reneged on environmental pledges and tacked right after winning office in 2017.

Website: https://www.jadot2022.fr/

Click here for all our reports on Yannick Jadot

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Marine Le Pen

Rassemblement national

Rassemblement National candidate Marine Le Pen was born into a very political family, steeped in controversy. Her rabble-rousing father Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the far-right Front National when she was 4 years old and waged his first of five French presidential bids the year she turned 6. When Marine was 8, in 1976, a 20-kilogram bomb meant for her father tore throughthe family's entire Paris apartment building, miraculously killing only their poodle, Rainbow. Undeterred, the youngest of the three Le Pen girls joined her father's party at the age of 18. She studied law and went on to practice as a defence attorney, representing National Front members in trouble as well as immigrants in need.

She first won office in 1998, as a regional councillor in northern France, before winning election to the European parliament in 2004 and 2009. She succeeded her father as leader of the Front National in 2011 with an eye to modernising and "de-demonising" the party to lift its flagging fortunes. She first ran for president in 2012, earning 17.9 percent of the first-round vote, a party record. In 2017, after rebranding the party the Rassemblement National ("National Rally"), she scored 21.3 percent in the first round to make it to the run off, as her father had in 2002.

A lacklustre last stretch and a botched TV debate against Macron saw Le Pen lose with 33.9 percent of the vote in the run-off five years ago, short of supporters' high expectations. As the 53-year-old mother of three vies for a do-over in 2022, Le Pen's biggest obstacle may be a radical right newcomer, the pundit-turned-politician Éric Zemmour. One day before both were officially named to the 2022 French presidential ballot on March 7, Zemmour unveiled his ostensible trump card at a campaign rally in the south of France: former Front National lawmaker Marion Maréchal, Jean-Marie Le Pen's 32-year-old granddaughter and the niece Marine Le Pen helped raise. On stage in Toulon, Marine Le Pen's young namesake – Marine is a nickname, she was born "Marion" – threw her support behind Zemmour against the family business. Talk about a bombshell.

Website: https://mlafrance.fr/

Click here for all our reports on Marine Le Pen

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Emmanuel Macron

La République en marche

Emmanuel Macron had never been elected to public office before making a brash play for the French presidency as an independent centrist in 2017 and winning France's top job at the age of 39. Born in the northern French city of Amiens to doctor parents, Macron was raised in part by his grandmother Manette, a teacher who introduced him to leftist ideas. At 15, the precocious Macron famously fell in love with Brigitte Trogneux, the 39-year-old high-school theatre teacher he would later marry, before leaving to Amiens to pursue studies in Paris. He went on to graduate from Sciences Po and the École Nationale d'Administration, those conventional shapers of French political talent, and served as an editorial assistant to Paul Ricoeur, one of France's greatest 20th century philosophers. He spent three years as an investment banker for Rothschild Group before joining Socialist president François Hollande as an Élysée Palace advisor in 2012, earning promotion to economy minister in 2014.

Breaking away from the unpopular Hollande, who declined to stand for re-election, Macron won office in 2017 on a centrist platform, drawing support from the mainstream left and right alike for his fledgling La République en Marche party. But as president, Macron has tended to govern to the right, courting confrontation during a historically challenging five-year term. As president, he weathered the massive anti-government Yellow Vest protests, huge strikes against pension reform, the Covid-19 pandemic and, most recently on the international stage, the withdrawal of French troops from Mali and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

After weeks of frantic diplomatic efforts to stave off war in Europe just as France holds the rotating EU presidency, Macron left it until hours before the March 4 deadline to officially declare his bid for re-election in an open letter published in regional daily newspapers. To win a second term, a rare feat for a French president, the incumbent will need to retain centrist voters, make up for lost leftists, and nurture the more traditional conservatives who might be tempted to turn to Les Républicains candidate Valérie Pécresse. But amid the conflict raging in Ukraine, the 44-year-old has said he won't be able to hit the campaign trail as he might have liked – evidently betting that French voters will opt for stability and his ostensibly safe pair of hands at the ballot box amid the conflict raging in Ukraine.

Website: https://avecvous.fr/

Click here for all our reports on Emmanuel Macron

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Jean-Luc Mélenchon

La France insoumise

Far-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon is contesting his third bid for the presidency at the age of 70, the cultured and cantankerous doyen on the 2022 ballot.

Born in Tangiers, Morocco, to Algerian-born French nationals, known as pieds noirs, Mélenchon left North Africa for France with his family in 1962 at the age of 10. After his parents' divorce, he settled with his mother, a teacher, and sister first in Normandy and then in the Jura, eastern France, where the May 1968 student uprising sparked his political activism. He studied philosophy and literature, working first as a French teacher and then as journalist, and cut ties with his early Trotskyite comrades when he joined the Socialist Party in 1976.

Rising through the party ranks, Mélenchon long served as a senator under the Socialist Party banner and junior minister under Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin. But his "no" vote in the 2005 referendum on the European Constitution was the beginning of the end of his 30-year relationship with the party. Mélenchon started his own in 2009, the Parti de Gauche ("Left Party"), modelled on Germany's Die Linke, and was elected to the European Parliament. Allied with the French Communist Party under the Front de Gauche ("Leftist Front") banner, Mélenchon scored 11.1 percent in the 2012 presidential election, which was eventually won by former Socialist colleague François Hollande. In 2017, for La France Insoumise ("France Unbowed"), Mélenchon won 19.58 percent of the vote, tripling the score of his ailing Socialists rivals and just 600,000 votes short of the run-off. His innovative 2017 campaign famously included Mélenchon appearing as a hologram at rallies in multiple cities simultaneously. He did win election to the lower-house National Assembly in the 2017 legislative elections two months later.

For his third presidential campaign, Mélenchon has consistently led a peloton of disparate leftist candidates in opinion polls. He was deprived of some of the support he enjoyed during his first two bids after the French Communist Party decided to field its own candidate, Fabien Roussel, this time around. But when fellow leftist Christiane Taubira's too-little-too-late candidacy failed to secure the 500 sponsorships required to join the ballot in March, Mélenchon won fresh support from the organisers of the rogue People's Primary that Taubira won in January.

Website: https://melenchon2022.fr/

Click here for all our reports on Jean-Luc Mélenchon

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Valérie Pécresse

Les Républicains

From the posh suburbs west of Paris, conservative Les Républicains candidate Valérie Pécresse hails from a family of Gaullist intellectuals. A graduate of the prestigious HEC business school and the École Nationale d'Administration that conventionally shaped public servants and politicians alike, Pécresse served as an auditor at France's Council of State before joining the Élysée Palace as an advisor under president Jacques Chirac in 1998. She sought the post through a family connection shortly after the conservative Chirac lost the reins of government to the rival Socialist Party in a historic political miscalculation. A Chirac protégée, or a bébé Chirac as that political lineage was known colloquially, Pécresse won a seat in the lower-house National Assembly in 2002. Under Nicolas Sarkozy, Chirac's conservative successor, she served as higher education minister, government spokesperson and budget minister. Pécresse was elected regional president of Île-de-France, the greater Paris area, in 2015 and re-elected atop the country's richest and most populous region in 2021.

The relatively moderate Pécresse walked away from Les Républicains after the 2019 European Parliament elections, frustrated by the party's rightward shift under the leadership of rival Laurent Wauquiez. But she returned and beat the odds in December when she won the conservative party's primary against hardline law-and-order finalist Éric Ciotti. She is the first woman to stand for president under the conservative party's banner.

After Pécresse won the conservative nomination, many saw her brand of mainstream conservatism as the greatest threat to Macron’s re-election. On the campaign trail, the 54-year-old mother of three has touted her considerable experience in government to stand out among rivals. But she also tacked right as she sought to appease hardliners within her party and stave off challenges from a glut of far-right rivals squeezing her support in the polls. Pécresse, who readily admits that campaign rallies aren't her forte, has been lambasted for stilted performances on the trail, adding insult to injury as her bid suffers high-profile defections, both to the incumbent Macron and to the far right.

Website: https://www.valeriepecresse.fr/

Click here for all our reports on Valérie Pécresse

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Philippe Poutou

Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste

Eyeing his third appearance on the presidential election ballot for the anticapitalist NPA, 55-year-old Philippe Poutou wears his blue-collar status on his sleeve. The son of a postal worker and a homemaker, Poutou didn't graduate from high school and worked at a Ford Motor Company factory in Blanquefort, southwestern France, keeping that day job through two French presidential bids before he was laid off in 2019, when the plant closed.

Poutou first waxed his political activism as a teenager in the 1980s, lending his allegiance to the communist revolutionary Lutte Ouvrière party until 1997. In 2000, he joined the rival Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire, which would become the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste in 2009. The autoworker succeeded postman Olivier Besancenot as the face of the far-leftist party in 2012, scoring just over 1 percent of the vote in the 2012 and 2017 presidential elections. Despite miserly scores at the ballot box, Poutou was lauded beyond his anticapitalist base in 2017 for the straight-talking style he brought to the TV debate stage as he needled presidential rivals François Fillon, a conservative former prime minister, and far-right stalwart Marine Le Pen.

Now a city councillor after winning election in Bordeaux in 2020, Poutou was the last 2022 nominee to tally the 500 sponsorship signatures required from elected officials across the country to run for president. As the race to 500 came down to the wire in early March, La France Insoumise candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a fellow far-leftist, announced that he would confer his own signature to rival Poutou. In the end, Poutou finished with 596 of the coveted signatures, 20 more than fellow communist revolutionary candidate Nathalie Arthaud.

Website: https://poutou2022.org/

Click here for all our reports on Philippe Poutou

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Fabien Roussel

Parti communiste français

The French Communist Party (PCF) didn't put forward a candidate in 2012 or 2017, throwing its support behind far-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon instead. But Fabien Roussel has put the century-old organisation back on the ballot in 2022, making good on a promise he made when he rose to party secretary in four years ago.

Named for a Communist member of the French Resistance, Roussel hails from a family of French Communist Party activists. His father was an elected local official of the party and a correspondent in Vietnam for the communist French newspaper L'Humanité. Roussel followed in his father's footsteps, joining France's Young Communist Movement at the age of 16 before becoming a journalist for L'Humanité and public television channel France 3. In 1997, after the left won control of the government in snap legislative elections, Roussel became press advisor to the State Secretary for Tourism, a Communist, in his first taste of government.

Roussel was a parliamentary assistant to a National Assembly lawmaker from 2009 to 2014, a job that came under fire last month when the investigative news site Mediapart alleged it may have been fictitious, citing interviews with former colleagues. Roussel denied the charge.
First elected locally in his native northern France in 2014, Roussel won a seat in the lower-house National Assembly in 2017. The 52-year-old lawmaker represents a district in the country's northern former rustbelt, where far-left and far-right parties habitually outperform middle-of-the-road offerings at the ballot box. Roussel has distinguished himself from leftist rivals on the campaign trail by placing emphasis on security and immigration as well as on social justice, backing nuclear energy, and famously elevating steak and good wine at the expense of tofu.

Website: https://www.fabienroussel2022.fr/

Click here for all our reports on Fabien Roussel

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François Asselineau

Union populaire républicaine

Tough to place on the political spectrum but known for his conspiracy theories, anti-Americanism and espousal of French sovereignty, François Asselineau is on his third attempt at the French presidency. He failed to gather the requisite 500 signatures in 2012 but managed the feat in 2017, scoring 0.92 percent of the vote in the first round.

Website: https://asselineau2022.fr/

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Jean Lassalle


A child of itinerant herdsmen from a village in the Pyrenees' Aspe Valley, Jean Lassalle was first elected mayor of his tiny native Lourdios-Ichère at the age of 21 in 1977 and stayed on in the job for 40 years, even as he rose to acclaim in national politics. Elected to the lower-house National Assembly in 2002 under the centrist UDF banner, Lassalle made headlines in 2006 when he survived a 39-day hunger strike to protest the closing of a factory that employed 150 people in his constituency.

Lassalle backed centrist presidential candidate François Bayrou in 2007 and 2012, serving as vice-president of Bayrou's centrist Modem party between 2010 and 2016. But he broke away from the outfit after Bayrou threw his support behind Emmanuel Macron for the 2017 presidential election. Instead, Lassalle threw his hat in the ring himself, parlaying his folksy charm and defence of rural life into 1.21 percent of the vote in 2017's first round. The 66-year-old centrist is waging his second bid for the Élysée Palace in order, he says, to "reconstruct the State in the service of our compatriots and to bring financial power back to the public forum".

Website: https://jl2022.fr/

Click here for all our reports on Jean Lassalle

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Arnaud Montebourg


A longtime lawmaker and a cabinet minister under former president François Hollande, Arnaud Montebourg twice sought the Socialist Party's presidential nomination but fell short in his 2011 and 2017 primary battles. He left the flagging party in 2018 and started a honey business before throwing his hat in the 2022 race, this time as an independent. But the 59-year-old's bid floundered after he proposed controversially that France block money transfers to countries that refuse to take back nationals who have migrated to France illegally. Montebourg looked set for yet another early exit in December when he issued a call, so far unheeded, for leftists to unite behind a single candidate in 2022. He finally left the race on January 19.

Website: https://laremontada.fr/

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Christiane Taubira


The French Guiana-born leftist Christiane Taubira won fans (and foes) far and wide as justice minister under Socialist president François Hollande. In 2013, she presented France's historic gay marriage legislation with flair, citing poetry by heart on the National Assembly floor. After years leaving supporters wondering whether she would run for president in 2022, Taubira finally announced that she would – but only if she won a rogue vote dubbed the People's Primary on January 30. She did just that, beating out top leftist rivals (who had officially refused to take part). However, Taubira failed in her stated mission to unite France’s fractured left behind a single candidate. She also struggled to collect the 500 signatures from elected officials required to run for the presidency, eventually dropping out of the race on March 2.

Website: https://www.avectaubira.fr/

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Hélène Thouy

Parti animaliste

Lawyer Hélène Thouy, 38, is vying for a place on the presidential ballot to defend animal rights as the cause gains ground in France. The party she co-presides and co-founded in 2016 met the threshold of support needed in 2017 legislative elections to earn public financing before going on to win a surprise 2.16 percent of the vote in 2019 European Parliament elections in France. But earning the 500 signatures needed from elected officials to green light a 2022 presidential run is a new challenge and will require a dogged effort, so to speak.

Website: https://helenethouy2022.fr/

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Éric Zemmour


After a prolonged will-he-won't-he drama throughout the autumn, hardline pundit-turned politician Éric Zemmour finally threw his hat in the ring in December, kicking off his bid with a bang: a Paris-area campaign launch rally that turned violent when anti-racism activists provoked the ire of supporters. A proponent of the "great replacement" theory that purports that an elite conspiracy is trying to replace White people in France and Europe with African and Middle Eastern immigrants, Zemmour has mainly campaigned on anti-Islam and anti-immigration themes. The 63-year-old father of three has been convicted three times for hate speech, most recently in January.

Born into a working-class family of French Jews from Algeria, Zemmour was born and raised in the blue-collar suburbs northeast of Paris. He graduated from Sciences Po, but fell short of requirements in two attempts at the École National d'Administration's entrance exam. He turned to media, spending 25 years as a political journalist and editorial writer at Paris-based daily newspapers. Le Figaro dismissed Zemmour for provoking racial discrimination in 2009, although he was permitted to maintain a weekly column in the newspaper's weekly magazine. Zemmour arguably won the bulk of his public notoriety as a polemicist on a long series of TV talk shows, a role scuppered by France's audiovisual regulator late last year when it became clear Zemmour would join the presidential race.

As a candidate, Zemmour has put competing right-wing bids on the back foot, poaching personnel and supporters away from fellow far-right flagbearer Marine Le Pen and mainstream conservative Valérie Pécresse with equal and obvious zeal.

Website: https://www.zemmour2022.fr/

Click here for all our reports on Eric Zemmour

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Anasse Kazib

Révolution permanente

Railway signalman and trade unionist Anasse Kazib first made a name for himself during 2018 strikes at France's public national rail operator SNCF, becoming a frequent guest commentator on television talk shows. A self-styled "Marxist revolutionary", Kazib was on the radical fringe of the far-left New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) before quitting that outfit in June 2021. The articulate 34-year-old, who hasn't quit his day job on the railways, is campaigning for the French presidency on a communist revolutionary platform under the Révolution Permanente banner. But he concedes to having trouble gathering the 500 signatures required from elected officials nationwide to be able to stand as an official candidate.

Website: https://anassekazib2022.fr/